Weaver wants to use state and local money to improve Ladiga Trail
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Jan 22, 2014 | 2350 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nancy Hufstetler and Brad Michaels walk past a broken and cracked portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail in Weaver on Wednesday. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Nancy Hufstetler and Brad Michaels walk past a broken and cracked portion of the Chief Ladiga Trail in Weaver on Wednesday. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Weaver leaders are seeking approval to reroute up to $200,000 of state and local money for sidewalk construction into repaving the Chief Ladiga Trail.

Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis said that money the city received from the Alabama Department of Transportation for sidewalks on Jacksonville Street is likely to go to waste if the overall construction project fails to come to fruition. On suggestion from Councilman Jeff Clendenning, the city is now looking at using between $180,000 and $200,000 to repave the Chief Ladiga Trail — a project the mayor calls long overdue.

“It’s our best untapped resource,” Willis said about the trail. “People come from out of state to ride it. Anything we can do to make that more inviting for people coming to Weaver is a positive thing.”

Money approved for the Jacksonville Street project was part of the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program which gave counties and municipalities 80 percent of the money to complete approved projects. Willis said the city will only need approval from the Calhoun County Metropolitan Planning Organization to change the use of the funds. Willis estimates the city’s matching contribution to the trail project will be about $40,000.

The state’s money is helpful, because the city of Weaver, and not Calhoun County, is responsible for the portion of the trail, according to County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm.

“Although the trail goes through the county, the responsibility for maintenance is divided between Piedmont, Jacksonville and Weaver,” Rosenbalm said. “We don’t actually maintain the trail.”

But the county has helped the cities in their efforts to keep the trail attractive. Rosenbalm said last year the county used a utility vehicle to clear long branches from the trail, and in the past helped Piedmont officials with their plans to repave the city’s portion.

Willis said he’s uncertain how much money the city spends on the trail. Routine maintenance such as limb clearance and patching potholes is taken from the city’s general fund.

“We definitely have high complaint areas,” said Joey Conger, Weaver’s public works director. “And they’re definitely becoming more frequent.”

Mindy Poe, a Jacksonville cyclist who maintains a Chief Ladiga Trail website, said the portion of the trail in Weaver is the only section that hasn’t received repaving in the last several years. The trail was originally paved in the city in 1995.

“If Weaver does end up repaving, the whole trail will be really nice from here to Georgia,” Poe said. “It’s really just the Weaver section right now that needs it.”

Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith said his city repaved its 8.1-mile portion of the trail in 2010 at a cost of $416,000.

“It was absolutely worth it,” Smith said. “It brings people to the area who wouldn’t otherwise be here, and it’s great for the people here too. You go out on the trail and you see families using it; it’s terrific.”

Poe said while the trail through Weaver is in rough shape, it’s actually seen some improvements recently, mostly thanks to Anniston resident Robert Smith, who heads up the Friends of Ladiga Trail group that volunteers to maintain the trail.

“They’ve done so much work fixing where roots have come up and made cracks,” Poe said. “He’s really done a lot of creative things to make the trail better.”

Poe said she’s encouraged by how much effort and resources city and county leaders have put into the trail, and said it not only benefits the recreational users of the Ladiga, but gives the area a tourism boost.

“It’s a huge marketing tool,” Poe said. “People know when the city is doing something like this, and it encourages them to come check out the trail when they know it’s being improved.”

Willis said he hopes the Metropolitan Planning Organization will approve the project at its February meeting so the city can start the project before the end of the year.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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